Bust of John Passmore Edwards

The Autobiography of John Passmore Edwards

The "Echo"


In 1868 Messrs. Cassell, Petter, & Galpin started the Echo, the first halfpenny daily newspaper published in London, with Arthur Arnold, afterwards chairman of the London County Council, as editor. After maintaining the paper for about seven years, and not succeeding with it as they expected, Messrs. Cassell & Co. sold it to Albert Grant, who, at the time, was supposed to be a millionaire. Mr. Grant within twelve months got tired of the responsibility and loss entailed, and sold the property, somewhat damaged in condition and value, to me. I soon, however, repented of the bargain, as I found the machinery and everything connected with the production of the paper, including even the foundations of the building itself, had to be renewed at the cost of several thousand pounds.
  For two or three years I staggered under my new obligations. But with diligence, fledged with hope, the paper gradually grew prosperous, and became a substantial London daily organ. In 1884 I sold two-thirds of the property to Mr. Andrew Carnegie and Mr. Samuel Story, M.P. But, differences having arisen over matters of opinion and methods of management, I bought back the said two-thirds, once more assumed full command, and remained proprietor and editor for twelve more years. I then sold the paper to a syndicate formed for the purpose. Afterwards the proprietorship and management of the Echo underwent other changes, until it ceased to exist in August, 1905.
During my fifty years' connection with newspapers and magazines I took a part-a subordinate one, I admit-in all the principal controversies on social and political questions of the time. I need scarcely say that I not infrequently found myself with struggling minorities, many of which, after adequate discussion, expanded into triumphant majorities. If a public question is reasonable and in harmony with general interests, it only requires, on the part of its defenders, time, courage, and suitable treatment, to secure social or legal sanction. Few things to me have been more pleasing or more historically picturesque than the having witnessed many national questions, fanned by agitation, emerge from obscurity, grow into "great facts," and blossom into Acts of Parliament. In all my experience as editor of, or contributor to, newspapers or magazines, I never wrote a sentence or passed a sentence on to the printers that I did not think true, and useful because true. While some editors and writers are ever ready to trim their sails to kiss, or to be kissed by, the passing breeze, in whatever way it may be moving, I always said, or caused to be said, where I had control, what I considered truest, whether popular at the time or not. What is best for mankind, now or in the future, is best for the nation, and what is best for the nation is best for individuals. I do not say I have not made mistakes, or, if at times I had been better informed, that I should not have written, spoken, or acted differently; but I do say-and I take no credit for saying or doing it-that I have always treated public questions purely in the light of general and enduring interests. And I would again act on the same principle and exalt it into an unshakable policy, though it might leave me, as it frequently did, in the company of the minority. Unfortunately, thousands of articles published annually in metropolitan newspapers are written to order, and do not carry with them the convictions of their writers, as thousands of votes are given annually in Parliament, not for the public, but for party good. There are "bulls" and "bears" as numerous and as unscrupulous, if not as cunning, on the newspaper Press as on 'Change. Day by day many dance to tunes played on newspaper organs for private gain at the public expense. But the claims of humanity, being transcendently greater than the claims of individuals or combinations of individuals, should exercise corresponding sway over individual conduct, and particularly in the realm of journalism.
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Passmore Edwards autobiography, A few Footprints
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April 18, 2005
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© Dean Evans 2003